The Battle of the Beautiful Biplanes

BY: Norm Goyer

One of my favorites is the Curtiss Hawk D in Owl paint scheme.

One of my favorites is the Curtiss Hawk D in Owl paint scheme.

When I look at an airplane I see far more than a flying machine. For example, I firmly believe that aviation owes some of its success to the alluring beauty of our early biplanes between the air battles of World War I and World War II. In the United States, three companies battled it out for orders from the US Army Air Force and the US Navy Airforce. The winner of the biplane battles won large orders while the second and third place winners won small orders. As is often the case, the politicians and bureaucrats placing the orders didn’t really know much about the products they were bidding on. What they saw was a product that looked really good or just average.

The Boeing was a rugged biplane flown by Marines. Not pretty, but efficient.

The Boeing was a rugged biplane flown by Marines. Not pretty, but efficient.

Another good indicator of beauty are the aircraft chosen to be built by model craftsmen. They aren’t interested in how efficient a plane is or how fast it climbs, they care about how pretty it is. They look at lines and not numbers, very similar to the viewers of the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue. My personal opinion is that modern jet fighters are more like flying computers than airplanes, drones are ugly by choice. Function precedes performance. Private aircraft, such as Cessna, Beechcraft and Piper single engine aircraft are equal to cars and station wagons, they sure are useful, but not ready for a beauty pageant yet. Helicopters belong to the “Bed and Breakfast crowd, turbine powered egg beaters. But haul out the 1930s batch of military biplanes and you have a Miss USA Biplane Pageant.

This airplane was the last of the Navy's shipboard biplane fighters. The Grumman F3F was called the Flying Barrel.

This airplane was the last of the Navy’s shipboard biplane fighters. The Grumman F3F was called the Flying Barrel.

There is usually one company who has it all together in certain categories. That company for designing biplanes is Curtiss. I don’t know if old Glenn wielded the drawing pens or someone else but they had an eye for airplane beauty. And one or two of them were also good military airplanes as well. The airplanes built by Curtiss, when they first got started, were functional and frankly, pretty ugly. The famous JN-4 Jenny was downright gangly. But the Curtiss Sparrowhawk, the miniature biplane designed to fly and protect dirigibles was very pretty. The lines spelled airplane from nose spinner to tail skid. Curtiss sealed the pretty biplane contest with the design of the Curtiss Hawk D with the “Owl” paint scheme, a very pretty airplane. Curtiss also designed the first Helldiver, a hell-

for-stout biplane dive bomber which was obsolete by the start of WWII. The Helldiver flew and fought so well they retained it for many years until the new Curtiss monoplane Helldiver appeared late in the war. Look at the fuselage, and tail, almost identical to the biplane Helldiver. Of course they were completely different, but the style was very evident.

Curtiss’s friend LeRoy Grumman took another route in designing his prewar biplane fighters. Folks called them “Grumman Barrells” and they looked it. Grumman preferred radial engines and locomotive construction. The last biplane retained by the Navy for carrier duty was the Grumman F3F with retractable gear. The Navy had already ordered batches of them when Brewster introduced the Buffalo monoplane and knocked Grumman’s biplanes right out of the sky. Grumman then realised that biplanes were history. With time a problem, Grumman literally converted the F3F to the monoplane F4F Wildcat. The Navy knew immediately that the Grumman was a far better airplane than the Buffalo, so they sold all the Brewsters to our Allies. The Wildcat went on to be a rugged carrier fighter airplane until the Grumman Hellcat replaced it.

The Curtiss Sparrow Hawk was a small biplane designed to be carried by dirigibles. Note the trapeze on top wing.

The Curtiss Sparrow Hawk was a small biplane designed to be carried by dirigibles. Note the trapeze on top wing.

There was one more heavy hitter in the biplane penant race, Boeing. Boeing was already building biplanes for the Marines and Navy. The Boeing bipes were good rugged airplanes but they lacked style. Boeing had already cut their monoplane teeth with the Boeing P-26. The Peashooter was a low wing very cute aircraft, but that was it. Cute doesn’t necessarily make a good fighter. Boeing was really more interested in multi-engine bombers. They were very good at that.

Eventually Curtiss and Grumman produced huge numbers

of monoplane fighters, the Curtiss P-36/P-40, Grumman Wildcats, Hellcats and Avengers. Boeing swept the skys with their B-17, B-29, B-50s. Our aircraft manufactures know how to get the job done. They may get off to a slow start but, they catch up very quickly.

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Harrison Ford Crashes PT-22 Vintage Aircraft

Photo courtesy of TMZ.com

A small plane piloted by Harrison Ford has crash-landed at an L.A. golf course … but we’re told the actor has survived.

TMZ has learned … Ford was piloting what appears to be a vintage 2-seater fighter plane Thursday … when something went wrong and he crashed into Penmar golf course in Venice, CA.

We’re told Ford suffered multiple gashes to his head and was bleeding. Two doctors who happened to be at the golf course rushed over to treat the actor.

Emergency personnel arrived to the scene a short time later. Ford was transported to a nearby hospital.

72-year-old Ford is a longtime aviator — piloting planes and helicopters — and has crashed multiple times in the past.

Story developing …

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Mother Cessna 172 and her Chicklets

The military used many C-41 for trainers. It became the basis for the Cessna 172XP.

The military used many C-41 for trainers. It became the basis for the Cessna 172XP.

By Norm Goyer

There is a good reason why the Cessna 172 Skyhawk is named year after year as one of the best aircraft ever designed. It is! I believe that a huge percentage of pilots around the world have flown a 172 some time during their flying career; many also soloed in this versatile aircraft. I have always preferred low wings, but I have owned 172s as part of my fleet of flying school airplanes. You have to admire Cessna marketing for their “step up” plan for pilots who learned to fly in a Cessna 150/152. Cessna figured that they would first rent and they even possibly buy a four passenger 172 for family trips or occasions when they needed just a bit more speed or room for the mission. One of our flight schools used only Cessnas. We found that we needed one Cessna 172 for every 3 to 4 two-place 150s in our school. Our chief pilot was a grizzled Vietnam pilot vet and a retired Colonel who insisted that the 150 was the best primary trainer ever designed. He liked the way the flaps worked and particularly loved its spin ability. None of our students in our flight schools either soloed or obtained their Private Certificate without learning how to get out of an accidental spin or how not to get into an accidental spin. The FAA didn’t require spin training but if you flew at our schools you learned about spinning. The Cessna 150 had an extra flap position and for some reason the 150 handled spins better than the 152s. I believe that a few degrees of up elevator had been removed between the 150 and the 152. Anyway our retired Colonel said so so it became law by executive order. Sound familiar. I happen to believe that he was correct and what he wanted, he got. Our safety record was outstanding at our four schools.

The Cessna 175 was an attempt to increase the performance of the C-172 with a geared 175-hp engine.

The Cessna 175 was an attempt to increase the performance of the C-172 with a geared 175-hp engine.

The first clone of the 172 was the Cessna 175 which used a very controversial 175 hp Continental six-cylinder geared engine. Cessna knew they had better have a model with more performance than the 172. The extra horsepower of the 175 was their answer, but a geared engine was not popular and the model was dropped due to slow sales.

The stock 172 went through a series of fuselage changes including a wrap around window, larger fuselage fairings blended into the vertical stabiliser, different shaped tail feathers and new gear legs to replace the Wittman style sheet steel landing gear struts.

The Cessna 172 RG was not very popular for obvious reasons.

The Cessna 172 RG was not very popular for obvious reasons.

I never thought that Cessna would put their Mickey Mouse retractable landing gear on the 172 but they did and the C-172RG was born. I always thought that Cessna did that to make up for dropping the Cardinal RG. The Cessna 172 RG and the C-177RG in my opinion were weird airplanes, although the Cardinal does have a following. Of course the 177RG was the poor man’s Cessna 210 Centurian.

But Cessna did have a great idea with their Cessna 172XP. I do understand that this started as an military airplane. They bought a batch of 172s but wanted a controllable pitch prop and more power. Pilots who flew this Air Force primary trainer loved it so I guess Cessna polished it up made if look pretty with interiors and paint and the XP was born. Cessna was right on with this airplane, I had one and it was a great airplane. It has now been almost 40 years and that XP is still in the area and the pilot I sold it to still owns it.

The Cessna 172 is still being manufactured by Cessna. It now has a Lycoming 180 hp engine and a modern glass cockpit.

The Cessna 172 is still being manufactured by Cessna. It now has a Lycoming 180 hp engine and a modern glass cockpit.

The Cessna 172 still lives on with the latest version still being built by Cessna. Of course it has changed but not that much. The latest Skyhawk has a 180-hp Lycoming, one of the most bullet proof engines ever built by Lycoming. The instrument panel has the latest in glass cockpit displays. The new 172 has 10 hp less than the XP and 20 more that previous late model 172s. The King lives on, and it should, it is an outstanding airplane. If you are looking for a good used family plane for any reason make the Cessna 172 first on your shopping list.

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Let it Snow, Let it Snow

 

By:       Norm Goyer

Truthfully, I do miss certain aspects of life in New England. When asked this question, I always answer that I miss our family camping excursions to Horton’s Camp Ground in North Truro. I miss our yearly trip in the fall to Burlington, Vermont to see the gorgeous foliage and to visit Tina’s sister. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but family rituals is the glue for holding people together. At that time, we had a large nine passenger English Land Rover with a canoe on top and complete camping gear packed in the huge interior. This meant we could stop anywhere and make camp for a few days, loved that Land Rover. We put over 90,000 miles in the woods of New England filming motorcycle events called Six Day Rallies. That big old Land Rover could climb the side of a mountain and be ready for more. This off road model is still being built for Africa and Australia but has been banned from the USA due to no stupid safety equipment. The body was aluminum and the four cylinders were the size of gallon paint cans. It had Warn Hubs, 12 speeds forward and a lousy heater. Sixty years later folks still ask me about my Land Rover which roamed the streets and hills of Western Massachusetts for so many years. It was bright red with my film company’s logo on both sides.

When snow covered the ground another, ritual we had was a trip to the airport to take the wheels off of the Cub and install a set of genuine 1939 wood skis with all the cables and bungee cords. This took the better part of the day and we usually made it a family outing. Flying a Cub from snow covered fields is a blast but you have to obey the rules or you will be in a world of hurt. The nose and tail of the skis are held in a relative position by cables limiting the amount of movement and bungee cords allowing the ski to work up and down over the uneven surface. If a cable broke the ski’s nose would tilt way down allowing it to dig in and flip the Cub over. If this happens the proper method to keep your Cub and neck in one piece is that you need to keep that one ski up in the air, the highest you could keep the wing, the ski would then hopefully flip back into position. The younger kids were given cans of ski wax and told to apply heavily to the bottom of the skis.

Wooden skis are far better than the more modern aluminum ones for a very obscure reason, they don’t stick to the snow if you stop the airplanes movement, even for a second. Why? As you taxi with metal skis they heat up a bit from friction. If the outside temperature is below freezing, the metal skis almost immediately freeze to the snow that they are sliding along on. You friend, are going nowhere until you climb out of the Cub and lift the frozen ski in the air, knock off the frozen snow and start over. Flying from deep fresh snow is a real thrill, you don’t have brakes so you have lost a good part of your direction control on the ground. When the Cub comes up to take off speed gentle pressure will get the whole plane into the air. Landing is landing, full stall and keep it moving back to its tie down position or hangar. We always had a piece of plywood with a hunk of 2 X 4 at the end to perch the nose of the skis on. This kept the skis from freezing to the ground. The problem with flying Cubs in the winter is that you freeze your butt off. No heaters in the Cub, snow mobile suits, parkas, scarves and mittens will keep you from turning into an ice sculpture. If you have a seaplane ticket then you know that flying from snow with skis is more like water flying than wheels. Then somebody invented huge snowplows and ruined skiplane flying from airports. Pilots in New England would often fly their Cubs, Champs, Taylorcrafts and even trikes like a TriPacer to local frozen lakes for impromptu gatherings on weekends. Yes, I do miss flying from the snow. Over the years I had skis for my Cubs, Champs, and Fly Baby. Hate the cold. but, ski plane flying was a thrill that you should try. Norm

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Aeronca’s Early Birds, Model LC and Scout, Model K

By Norm Goyer

The Aeronca K was last with 2 cylinder engine before the Defender.

The Aeronca K was last with 2 cylinder engine before the Defender.

When I was a about 11 or 12 years old I built dime and quarter models from Megow. Two of them were particular good rubber band powered flyers. The Aeronca Collegiate and Aeronca Model K Scout flew better than the Taylor Cub of the same size. The Aeronca C- 2 and C-3, known as the Collegiate series had a deep pot belly and big tail surfaces which ensured their stability. The Aeronca K was an in between model of the C-3 and the Aeronca Tandem. Both the C-3 and Model K used the two cylinder Aeronca engine. All of these were pre-war aircraft while the Champ was post war. The Aeronca 7AC Champ was designed using the Cub as the base to make a better airplane, changing many of the Cub’s trade marks. The Champ had a door and the pilot flew from the front, unlike the Cub. But the joke was on Aeronca, pilots loved the weird Cub and its honest flying capabilities. Piper’s prewar lineup was the J- 2, followed by the J-3, the Cub Coupe and J-5 Family Cruiser. The Aeronca Chief and the Piper Cub Coupe were rivals. My favorites were the Piper three place cruiser and the Aeronca low wing LC. Where did that one come from?

The Chief was a side by side sport aircraft, nice airplane, quite popular.

The Chief was a side by side sport aircraft, nice airplane, quite popular.

During the middle 1930s many manufactures experimented with two place side by side low wings. This was the era of the Ryan ST and SC, the Kinner Sportster and the Aeronca LC, one of my all time favorite aircraft. I never flew one nor actually saw one with the exception of a giant RC version on floats built by a Sacramento pilot friend of mine. The LC land version had large wrap around landing gear fairings which gave the plane an exotic look. Of course they were for drag reduction. This airplane and the Ryan SC were light years ahead of other 1936 aircraft, they looked like Thompson Racers rather than fun flying sport aircraft. Quite unlike other Aeronca designs, it was a low-wing monoplane that featured side-by-side seating in a completely enclosed cabin. The design reflected the greater attention being paid to aerodynamics in the period and included large wheel spats for the fixed undercarriage and a Townsend ring for the engine.

Aeronca sold many of the two place tandem Defender to the military for Grasshopper duties.

Aeronca sold many of the two place tandem Defender to the military for Grasshopper duties.

The Model L was mainly flown by private pilot owners. The plane was not a big seller and a destructive flood at Lunken Airport (Martha Lunken, a popular writer for Flying magazine’s family owned this airport) took the energy out of the program and Aeronca went with high wing light aircraft. The EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin has an 1937 Aeronca LC in its collection. Aeronca LC NC17442 (cn 2056) is also on display in the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon.

The Aeronca LC was not popular in spite of its good looks and performance. Only a few were built.

The Aeronca LC was not popular in spite of its good looks and performance. Only a few were built.

The Aeronca Model K Scout is an American light airplane first marketed in 1937, and was the true successor to the popular C-2/C-3 line.Powered by a dual-ignition Aeronca E-113C engine, the Model K Scout brought the Aeronca design up to modern aviation standards. Eliminating the Aeronca’s traditional “bathtub” appearance, the Scout featured a strut-braced high wing with a fully enclosed cockpit seating two side-by-side.A total of 357 Aeronca Model K Scouts were built. Seventy three Model K were on the U.S. civil aircraft register in May 2009 and several examples are preserved in museums. The EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin has an example on display at its Pioneer Airport.

Specifications Aeronca LC

Crew: one, pilot

Capacity: 1 passenger

Length: 22 ft 6 in (6.9 m)

Wingspan: 36 ft (10.9 m)

Height: 7 ft (2.1 m)

Wing area: 150 ft² (13.9 m²)

Empty weight: 1034 lb

Max. takeoff weight: 1,852 lb (850 kg)

Powerplant: × Warner Scarab Jr piston engine, 90 hp (67 kW) each

Performance

Maximum speed: 123 mph (198 km/h)

Range: 535 miles (860 km)

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